Those who would see technology play an ever more prominent role in hospitality will doubtless be eager to learn how its application can enhance the guest experience, and a recent report from StayNTouch, Travel Tripper, and TrustYou investigates the extent to which hoteliers are currently making the most of the latest advances.
The 2018 Guest Experience Assessment Report relies on the input from 300 hotels in North America and other major global destinations to examine issues such as check-in technology, upselling, guest communication, engagement strategies, and the best ways to utilize guest data. The aim is to show hoteliers how their own performance compares to others, how they can understand the current state of the ‘guest journey’, and how suppliers can match the technology to the needs of guests.
The survey itself asks hoteliers to rate their own performance in a number of categories, from which conclusions are drawn and suggestions made. However, while the approach makes for interesting reading, it is certainly possible to take issue with a number of the assumptions underpinning the key takeaways.
For example, let’s take a look at the opening question which asks hoteliers whether they offer a choice of check-in methods. Three possible answers are given: Yes; No; Yes, But Need To Do Better. Forty-one percent said No, which is fairly unambiguous if we assume that the only method they offer is a traditional front-desk check-in. Thirty-three percent said Yes, But Need To Do Better, which might reflect a whole-hearted commitment to Great Britain’s Olympic motto, “Better Never Stops”, or could simply be the result of modesty. Twenty-six percent said just Yes, and presumably saw no need to improve.
What the question does, however, is to assume that a choice of check-in methods is desirable, and that the use of technology must play a dominant role. Contrast this with our own recent findings in a survey of younger millennial travelers which found that only 11% would voluntarily use mobile check-in when front-desk check-in is also available. Perhaps some of those hoteliers who answered Yes, But Need To Do Better might actually mean that Yes, they offer a choice, but Could Do Better means offering a faster, more welcoming check-in, not simply more choice.
Moving on, the next question asks hoteliers if they promote and convert upsells at check-in. Thirty percent say they do, and the remainder don’t. Fair enough, but then it is explained that hoteliers are missing out on additional revenue if front-desk staff aren’t trained to upsell at check-in. We might argue that this would be the same front-desk check-in that the previous question advocated avoiding, but the explanation goes on to state that mobile technology can also facilitate upselling, so there’s no escape. The next suggestion is that guests should be given a pre-stay survey so that hoteliers can figure out exactly what kind of things can be upsold to individual guests. That’s right – 70% of professional hoteliers don’t upsell (and we’re assuming they’re professionals because we trusted their judgment on other areas of the survey), and the logical conclusion is that they ought to be using pre-stay surveys and exploiting the preferences their guests reveal. Our conclusion would be that 70% of successful hoteliers don’t overtly upsell because it annoys guests, and unless we’re in the business of promoting technology that supports upselling, we’d happily follow their example.
Next, the hoteliers were asked if their staff were always very responsive to guest requests. Not sure how much we can trust the answers to this one. We can, however, agree that responsiveness is good, but the survey conclusions regarding responsiveness suggest that it involves using guest data, and of course technology, to meet the needs of those guests. Fifty-three percent said they were always very responsive, but quite what they were measuring and by exactly what yardstick was not apparent.
Then the hoteliers were asked how easy it was to make a booking or contact their hotel through their mobile website. Forty percent said it was very easy, though easy for whom wasn’t clear. Eight percent said it was difficult, and we’d like to think those respondents were proud to announce this fact because they understand that if guests can actually overcome the website challenge they will feel a real sense of achievement which can quickly be converted to brand loyalty. The answers to this question don’t actually matter – but the conclusion was a very useful reminder that mobile websites can never be made too user-friendly, and that a specific strategy for mobile ranking indexes is very important.
The final point to mention here is the question asking hoteliers what methods they use to communicate with guests. By far the most common were email and phone – and unsurprisingly these were also the two methods most commonly used by guests to communicate with hotels. It takes two to tango, one might suppose. It was also revealed, however, that guests show a strong preference for written electronic communication, from which it might be inferred that it’s the hotels who initiate a majority of those phone calls. The key takeaway for this item in the report was that hotels should diversify their communication approach to match the preferred channels of the guest. This undoubtedly makes sense, but the idea was presented as “leveraging technology to create unique experiences and relationships” which wouldn’t exactly be our way of describing a LINE message from a hotel instead of an email.
For more insights, please do take a look at the full report. Within the data there are numerous useful nuggets of information and insight to be found. Overall, the use of technology to enhance the guest experience is made to sound highly desirable, but we do rather wonder if in many cases we may simply be inflicting the ‘technology experience’ upon guests who might prefer our time, care, and personal attention instead.